Food Components

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Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
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Adequate nutrition is an essential for normal growth and reproduction and plays a role in lifespan of human and non-human primates. A variety of plant and animal products form the essential parts of the diet, all of which contributes to the daily energy requirements. The nutritional requirements are provided by a diet which contains varying amounts of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals (both the marcominerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chlorine, sulfur, magnesium as well as trace elements iron, cobalt, copper, iodine, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, chromium, fluorine, tin) and water. Harding (1981) reviewed field studies of the diets of 131 primate species and found that fruit was consumed by 90% of the species. Soft plant foods such as buds, shoots and flowers by 79%; mature leaves by 69%; invertebrates by 65%; seeds by 41%; and other animal foods like eggs by 37%. Besides the ingestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, ingestion of the major mineral elements like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are important in the development of bones and teeth. Trace elements like iron are important in hemoglobin, myoglobin, a number of enzymes and the cytochrome system.  Humans and great apes consume both different types of food and different proportions of nutrients. Early humans are thought to have consumed 100 grams of fiber daily while modern humans consume less than 30 grams of fiber. Apes consume significantly more fiber and are primarily herbivorous. The diet of orangutans, chimpanzees and lowland gorillas consists primarily of fruit, while high-land gorillas subsist primarily on leaves and shoots (terresterial herbaceous vegetation). Bonobos also consume a high proportion of terresterial herbaceous vegetation.



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  1. An order of omnivories: Nonhuman primates in the wild. , Lancaster, J.B., Harding R. S. O., and Teleki G. , Omnivorous primates. Gathering and hunting in human evolution. , New York, NY, p.191-214, (1982)